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America's Fastest-Growing Workforce Fears the Clock Is Running Out

Home health-care workers, who are mostly women, represent the fastest growing worker category in the U.S.
Home health-care workers, who are mostly women, represent the fastest growing worker category in the U.S. Photograph by Michele McDonald/The New York Times via Redux

Last December, President Barack Obama made an announcement that was hailed by unions and 1.8 million low-income workers. The administration would close a loophole that exempts home health aides who care for the elderly from minimum wage and overtime protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act. That loophole has been in place for more than three decades. When Congress extended minimum wage in 1974 to domestic employees such as housekeepers, lawmakers excluded babysitters and “companions” for the old and infirm, arguing such care was performed largely by family and friends.

Today, workers in the $84 billion home health-care industry, most of whom are women, represent the fastest-growing worker category in the U.S. Their median annual wage is $19,640.